HistLing Seminar Series 1, ANU, 2005

Normal time: Tuesdays, 11.00am-12.30pm
Seminar Room B, HC Coombs Building (no.9), Australian National University


22nd March, 2005:

Malcolm Ross

(Linguistics, RSPAS)

“Towards a reconstruction of the history of tone in languages of the Trans New Guinea family”

The Trans New Guinea family is perhaps the world's third largest language family (after Niger-Congo and Austronesian), with some 400 members. It is also one of the world's least known language families.

One of the problems that needs to be tackled in order to reconstruct the history of the family is the question of tone. It is now fairly clear that many members of the family are tonal, and it is likely that Proto Trans New Guinea was also tonal. In this talk I will look at the tonal typology of Trans New Guinea languages and examine tone in one language in greater detail. I will also consider whether a historical reconstruction of Proto Trans New Guinea tone is a realistic goal.

5th April, 2005:

Bevan Barrett

(Linguistics, RSPAS)

“Beyond the reconstruction of proto-Maric – the search for higher-level genetic relationships among the languages of Queensland”

Proto-Maric (pM), the reconstructed proto-language ancestral to the Maric languages of central Queensland, is typical of Pama-Nyungan languages in general: it possesses most of the features – phonological, lexical, morphological and grammatical – common to (and often distinctive of) this language family, along with numerous individual peculiarities which serve to distinguish it from its neighbours and relatives.

In this seminar, a summary of pM (as reconstructed in my recent Master’s thesis) will be presented, focussing particularly on those features and innovations which help to differentiate it from both its near neighbours and its putative ancestral language proto-Pama-Nyungan (pPN). Evidence that Guwa, a language to the west, may be the Maric subgroup’s closest relative will also be outlined.

In addition, I will address the question of Maric’s possible wider genetic affiliations, as a first step towards the greater goal of disentangling the complex historical relationships among the Pama-Nyungan languages of Queensland. Drawing primarily upon morphological evidence, it will be shown that the Maric languages appear to bear more in common with languages to their north than with those to the west and south, or to the east along the coast – a possibility which may have important implications for the prehistory of Maric-speaking peoples.

12th April, 2005:

Andrew Pawley

(Linguistics, RSPAS)

“Where and when was Proto Oceanic spoken? Linguistic and archaeological evidence”

The challenge of tracing the origins and directions of the Austronesian diaspora has engaged scholars from linguistics and other disciplines for more than a century. In this paper I will discuss the task of locating and dating one important Austronesian interstage, Proto Oceanic, drawing on evidence from archaeology and historical linguistics. Both these disciplines record a major dispersal event occurring in the southwest Pacific a few millennia ago and the challenge is to see how closely their basic stories match and, if they do match closely, to see how one discipline can complement the other in filling in the details.

26th April, 2005:

Peter Hill

(Visiting Fellow, SLS, Fac. Arts)

“Post-1989 Lexical Changes in the Slavonic Languages”

Perestrojka in the Soviet Union (from 1985), the collapse of communism in central and south-eastern Europe in 1989, the disintegration of Yugoslavia and of the Soviet Union in 1991 were revolutions and revolutions usually have clear consequences for language.

Before the October Revolution, most Russians were illiterate; when they learned to read and write after the October Revolution, they started to adjust their pronunciation to the spelling (“spelling pronunciations”). Many of the changes in Russian pronunciation during the Soviet era can be seen as a result of this phenomenon. The post-1989 changes in the Slavonic languages appear to relate entirely to the lexicon, although in Croatia some morphosyntactic and phonological phenomena have now been codified that were previously considered to be solecisms /dialectalisms. In Russian, Zemskaja (2000) notes a rise in analytical and agglutinative features.

Post-perestrojka changes in Russian: (1) there are neologisms to denote features of the novoe myšlenie “new way of looking at things”, which Gorbachev introduced, and neologisms, many borrowed from English, to describe the new realities of capitalist Russia. (2) On the other hand, terms that used to refer to aspects of Soviet reality are now obsolete; (3) lexemes that previously referred exclusively to phenomena outside the Soviet Union are now part of everyday life; (4) lexemes referring to phenomena that were part of Russian life and administration before the October Revolution have been revived; (5) lexemes that previously had a negative connotation are now considered to be neutral, e.g. biznes “business”, sdelka “business deal”. (6) There are also neologisms that have been coined to refer to the Soviet era. Such expressions have a negative connotation, e.g. komandno-administrativnyj socializm “command socialism”. (7) Some lexemes have been reinterpreted; (8) “unprintable” lexemes - vulgarisms, “four-letter words” or in Russian necenzurnye slova as well as mat “vulgar language”, youth slang (molodezhnyj zhargon) and general slang (obshchij zhargon) - are now used in print, both in newspapers and in artistic literature.

In Croatia, Bosnia/Hercegovina and Macedonia nationalist governments have promoted the “de-Serbianization” of the national language and the “restoration” of its “purity”. Croatian language planning in the post-Yugoslavian era has been explicitly referred to by Croatian nationalists as the “re-Croatization” of the national language. Similarly, Bosnian nationalists say that their language-planning efforts aim to restore the Bosnian character of their language. Bosnian linguists claim that Bosnian literary sources were neglected in “Serbo-Croatian” lexicography and hence Bosnian lexical items were not registered (Völkl 2002).


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